Maggie A's Meanderings




 Jun 5, 2016

Self-Segregation and the School Bus Stop

Offered for your consideration a set of observations about a school bus stop........................

This past school year if I walked at the right time of the morning, I would see a group of children waiting at a school bus stop.

Now apparently the school buses here don't go into the neighborhoods. Instead, the children (unless they're special needs) are expected to walk from their homes on the side streets out to the main road. It must make it easy for the bus drivers, but in my neighborhood the walk from the house to the main road can be over half a mile (one way) and that's a far distance to expect a child as young as six to walk twice a day especially in bad weather. (I know plenty of adults who don't walk that far on a nice day.) Nevertheless, in their combined wisdom that's what the school system in conjunction with the state of Florida has decided.

Since the bus stop is some distance from the homes and is on a very busy main road, some parents take the approach of walking with their children to the bus stop. Some even drive to the bus stop and wait in their vehicles with the child until the bus arrives.

The parents of the children at this bus stop don't do that. These children walk to the bus stop unaccompanied. They all appear to come from the same side street. These children are not little little kids. I'd guess they're middle school students. So they're old enough and big enough to walk down the street out to the bus stop by themselves.

This particular bus stop isn't just a school bus stop; coincidentally it's also a regular bus stop. That means it has a bench --- a luxury school bus stops don't usually have.

What I found odd was when I walked past the bus stop (and I walk past it twice, going out and heading home) was that the bench would stay empty. The children I saw weren't sitting on it. I'd have thought the bench would be first come, first served. But, no, the children all stood around rather than sit. Of course, I speculated: maybe the kids wanted to leave the bench empty for anyone who was taking the county bus, maybe the children didn't want to be mistaken for county bus riders, maybe the children had been told not to use the bench. There must be some reason the bench was left empty.

Then one morning I walked by and bench wasn't empty. There were two children sitting on it.

And that was the morning when I really started paying attention to what was happening at that bus stop.

Because the two children sitting on the bench were two Caucasian boys. While the other children I'd see at the bus stop were two African-American girls and an Asian-American boy.

Now I never saw the two white boys get to the bus stop first. From what I saw (and I didn't walk by at school bus time every morning, some mornings I walked earlier, some later), but, from what I saw, the white boys always got to the bus stop after the other children. Normally the Asian-American boy got there first, then the two African-American girls, then sometime later the two Caucasian boys arrived. Yet it was always the two Caucasian boys who got the bench.

All the children were about the same age and about the same size. The two white boys weren't a lot bigger than the others.

Now that I was paying attention to the bus stop, I also noticed that the children never waited together. The Asian-American boy generally stood under a tree, often facing the tree with his back to the road. The two African-American girls stood together and sometimes I'd see them playing with each other. And, of course, the two Caucasian boys sat on the bench together.

I found that odd. I found the whole situation to be odd.

I grew up at a time where parents didn't feel the need to be watching children every minute they're outside. We just went outside and played with other children. In the mornings we stood around together at the bus stop. Since the parents of the bus stop children were letting the kids walk to the bus stop by themselves, clearly these parents also didn't feel the need to be watching children every minute they're outside. So I figured these kids probably played out on the street the same as we did. Their playmates should have been each other.

But these children didn't interact. They didn't even speak to each other.

Except one morning some of them must have. One morning I walked by to see the three minority children with their butts firmly planted on the bench. Obviously a conspiracy was happening; they'd decided to take the bench. I was curious what would happen when the white boys showed up, and, as luck would have it, as I was walking back I saw the boys walking down the side street toward the bus stop. I slowed my pace, then paused to see what happened. Since the bus stop was a vacant lot, there was no building to block the view of the bench. So the boys could see from a distance that the bench was occupied. The two boys didn't get near the bench. Instead they stopped and waited well behind the bench.

I wondered if a mini-revolution had happened. Would the bench now be first come, first served?

But, no, the next time I walked by when the children were there things were back to how they had been. The Asian-American boy was under the tree. The two African-American girls were standing together. And the two Caucasian boys were sitting on the bench even though they arrived last. And that's the way things seemed to stay.

I'd love to know what was going on at the bus stop stop. Bullying? White privilege? White male privilege? Some of the kids had been told to not sit on the bench? Were the two black girls sisters? Were the two white boys brothers? Were they sticking in family groups or as friends? And, if they all lived on the same short street that only had a dozen houses on it, why weren't they all friends and playmates?

These are questions I'll never know the answer to. I don't live on that street. I don't know any of the parents. All I know is what I saw. And was I saw was a self-segregated bus stop with the white boys getting to sit while the non-white children stood. Why the segregation happened, why the white boys got the bench, I do not know, will never know. So I offered these observations for your consideration.

school bus stop with children segregated

For more about segregation, read "Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner? The Socially Accepted Racism" and"Ingloriously A Bastard? Mississippi and Miscegenation."

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